Gogue guest of Rotary Club

Published 4:06 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

Today’s college students are looking beyond the bachelor’s degree for their educational aspirations.

So says Dr. Jay Gogue, president of Auburn University. Gogue was the guest speaker at the Greenville Rotary Club Thursday, where he shared the outlook for the 25,000-student campus with members and guests.

“The biggest change in the last 25 years in our colleges and universities is the fact today only 22 percent of our freshmen expect their bachelor’s degree to be their final degree. That number would have been 80 percent years ago,” Gogue said.

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That translates into schools like Auburn developing stronger graduate programs and extending research programs, he said.

A research project in partnership with a German medical instrument company will place the latest state-of-the-art MRI machine in AU’s college engineering school, a first for any school of engineering in the U.S.

A $15 million grant is also providing the school with research facilities for bio-fuel.

“We’ve spent approximately $500,000 on new facilities in the last decade, and most of that has been through gifts or grants from federal agencies,” Gogue said.

Because Alabama is a “no-growth” state, the president said the aim of AU was not to grow the number of students on its campus, but to concentrate on quality.

“Of course, we’ve been affected by the recession like everyone else. We participate in it but we are trying not to become leaders in it. We have lost $100 million in the last 13 months,” Gogue said.

“Even so, we are proud of the fact our tuition increase of 5.7 percent was the lowest in the state of Alabama. In terrible financial times, you have to work hard to keep up the morale of faculty and students.”

One way the university hopes to help students get their education in a more timely manner and save money is to encourage high-performing students to take more than the standard 12 credit hours per semester, allowing them to complete both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in four years. Tuition would be at a lower rate than those taking only 12 hours.

“If we can get the students out of school more quickly and into the world of work as tax payers, that benefits all of us,” Gogue said.

Another need for today’s college students: “a set of international skills,” the president said.

“While 25 percent of our students get to study abroad, 75 percent don’t. So we bring ambassadors and state department officials from other countries to our campus for sessions with the students. We bring the world to our students who don’t necessarily get the chance to go overseas.”

While the Auburn/Alabama rivalry was addressed in a tongue-in-cheek manner, Gogue said the state was very fortunate to have two public universities that were so highly ranked.

“All joking aside, Auburn is ranked in the top percentile of U.S. colleges and universities, and so is Alabama. People from outside our region do not realize what quality educational opportunities we offer in our state,” he said.